Christian · Social justice

A few more ideas for Advent

Advent – a time of waiting, a time of keeping watch, a time for wresting with the now and not yet of our faith. We look forward to that time when all will, finally, be well. We anticipate the day when there will be:

no injustice

no suffering

no pain

no hunger

no exploitation

no abuse

no fear

no grief

no sickness

and no death.

We long for God’s Kingdom to come and in the midst of our waiting, watching and wrestling, we – with God, with the God of Justice – can bring hope, freedom, peace, healing and love.

I have found three more Advent activities to help me have a richer and deeper experience of the God of Justice.

  1. Red Letter Christians and the Diocese of St Albans are producing a daily Advent Challenge on the theme of Jesus and Justice. You can sign up here.
  2. Tiny Advent poems – one for each day in Advent (there’s one at the end of this post). They are available from Engage Worship.
  3. Write for Rights – each December, Amnesty International organise a writing campaign so people can send messages of hope and solidarity to human rights defenders across the world. It’s much easier to participate in the era of emails and the internet! I have already sent a few messages and hope to send a few more during Advent.
Christian · Social justice

Justice and Worship

I’ve been wanting to write about justice and worship for a while now but haven’t been able to arrange my thoughts. I’m still not ready really. I have questions but it’s time to share and maybe have some conversations.

I’ve realised earlier this year that I feel a particular closeness to God where I am singing worship songs in a social justice context, such as at The Justice Conference. I’ve noticed how I feel at home in an Anglican service where issues of justice and poverty are mentioned each week through the liturgy and prayers. Recently, we sang Tell Out My Soul which is based on the Magnificat, Mary’s prayer at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.

Luke 1:51-53

(There’s a great article on the Washington Post about the significance of Mary’s prayer.)

Sunday morning worship doesn’t make sense to me anymore unless justice is incorporated.

I’ve been thinking for a while now about the intersection of  sung worship and social justice and what that could mean. I’m not a singer or a musician or a worship leader.

So far I’ve found three ways:

1) Sung worship as prophecy – when we sing we are proclaiming God’s will to be done and his kingdom to come. We are proclaiming freedom, peace and justice.

One of my favourite songs is Andy Flanagan’s We are Blessed – a song for which he gets no royalties as he doesn’t want to profit from a song about justice. Have a listen!

2) Lament – there are plenty of laments in the Bible – laments that eventually turn to praise. I want to learn more about lament and read Prophetic Lament by Soong-Chan Rah – a Korean American pastor who planted a church in a deprived area. He writes into the American context but so much of it can be applied to a UK context (and goes really well with We Need to Talk about Race by Ben Lindsey). I was moved by the death of a young homeless woman in the town where I work and wrote a short lament for her.

3) Worship as protest – I would like to go to the Faith Bridge which is currently being organised as part of the October Rebellion. But the pressures of day-to-day life mean that it wouldn’t be a wise decision. Christians are gathering there to prayer and to worship.

There’s a long history of worship as protest but protest should also inform our worship. I’ve been listening to Andy Flannagan and Thandi Gamedze’s talk from 2018’s Justice Conference called Justice and Worship, and Thandi talks about finding the protests and using that cry for justice to inform our worship songs.

I know that I am just dipping my toes into an ocean here and this is just the beginning of a journey.

Christian · Social justice

The Justice Conference

I have just spent two days at The Justice Conference – well, almost two days, I missed the evening sessions as finishing at half nine is just too late for me now! I hope to catch up the sessions I missed through purchasing the talks on a USB.

Not too far from home, the conference was at The Drum in Wembley, the UK’s greenest public building. Little Miss, Small Boy and Mr Pilgrim came with me on the train on the first morning – a train ride is fun when you’re small and I was glad of the company!

My head is still spinning as I begin to process the sessions and seminars. Full of poetry, drama, talks, panel discussions and audience questions, the days were full of challenging content. I want to think more about:

  • Encouraging young children to engage with the Creator and the natural world (I found out about a church that meets in a park! Park Church, Luton)
  • White privilege
  • Climate change
  • The theology of justice – I will be reading Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma
  • Making space to be creative and the importance of creativity
  • The Pilgrim family’s giving
  • Connection and holism – why is it that many of us don’t join the dots and see how our the way we live our lives (often in over-consumption) has an affect on others? Why is there still a dualism to our thinking? What can be done about this?

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The highlights from me were the variety of voices – there was a diversity in gender, colour, nationality and background. An LGBTQ+ perspective was missing though.

My favourite speakers were Mandisa Gumada, a South African woman from Green Anglicans, and Micah Bournes – my new favourite poet. If you have time, I recommend listening to some of his spoken word poetry.

I’ve signed up to Jeremy Williams Make Wealth History blog and am looking forward to reading his book, The Economics of Arrival, which comes out next year.

Hopefully, as I read and write and think and talk, I will be able to share further thoughts here.

Christian · Ethical living · Social justice

What’s for breakfast?

On Martin Luther King Day last month, I listened to his ‘The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life’ sermon which contains the well-known quote:

Before you get through eating breakfast in the morning, you’re dependent on more than half the world. That’s the way God structured it; that’s the way God structured this world. So let us be concerned about others because we are dependent on others.

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(Listen to the sermon or read a transcript)

I’ve ordered Where Do We Go From Here: From Chaos to Community by Martin Luther King because ‘The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life’ sermon is so absolutely amazing and I want to – and I think need to – have more Martin Luther King in my life.


Today is the first day of Fair Trade Fortnight. I’ve recently discovered some new ways of supporting fair trade:

  • Shared Interest – I’ve started investing a small amount each month; the money is lent to small farming and handcraft groups in disadvantaged areas working in parts of the world where other lenders are less keen to operate.
  • Clean and Fair – I’ve ordered a five litre bottle of handwash and a 5 litre bottle of washing up liquid (plus a funnel!) of this new fair trade product. It contains FairPalm – sustainably-grown palm oil from West Africa (where palm oil plants grow naturally). This is good news both for West African palm oil plant farmers and orangutans in Indonesia. [Grand-père – I do listen to you!]

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  • Arena Flowers – A fair trade registered florist. With Mothering Sunday coming up, why not send an ethical bouquet?

‘Before you get through eating breakfast in the morning, you’re dependent on more than half the world.’

What can we do to ensure that those who are involved in creating our breakfasts are paid and treated fairly? What fair trade item could you buy this fortnight?

Watch this short video created by the Fair Trade Foundation featuring Samuel Maina, a Kenyan coffee farmer. I love his gentle challenge at the end; I will certainly be thinking about him the next time I have a cup of coffee.

This film features farmers and workers at a banana plantation in Panama.

Before you get through eating breakfast in the morning, you’re dependent on more than half the world. That’s the way God structured it; that’s the way God structured this world. So let us be concerned about others because we are dependent on others.

 

Ecological concern · Ethical living · Social justice

The good, the bad and the ugly

Let’s start with the good:

  • Rice and pasta in cardboard packaging from Tesco – probably one of the easiest ways to avoid single use plastic.
  • Waitrose sell an organic palm oil free chocolate spread which is delicious! Bye bye Nutella! Find out about palm oil here.
  • Wooden toys – I’d been wanting some pre-loved wooden dolls’ house furniture and wooden people for a while to furnish Granny’s old dolls’ house for Little Miss. Eventually, I found some for sale near by through Facebook Marketplace. (Disclaimer: I did then buy some new wooden furniture from John Lewis as the house needed a few more items). Just waiting for Grandpère to redecorate the house now! 

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  • Toy library – I finally joined the local toy library this week. Small Boy and Little Miss are enjoying playing with magnetic building blocks. 
  • Small Boy is loving the new series of Down on the Farm – a fantastic programme for children about nature and the countryside. It also makes a change from Octonauts! 
  • I’ve enjoyed reading Peter Harris’s Kingfisher’s Fire and have ordered Under the Bright Wings secondhand from Better World Books as well as a new copy of Planetwise by Dave Bookless from Wordery. I’ve not bought anything from Amazon since 10 April! 
  • I’ve also purchased a year’s subscription to the Pearly White Club – a new local company selling bamboo toothbrushes. They are also donating toothbrushes to New Hope. 

The bad:

I picked up a whole carrier bag full of rubbish as we walked to church on Sunday. 

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The two bins in our local park have been padlocked because someone had previously threw the metal bin over the fence into a field where there are horses and donkeys. 

I love my local community and it saddens me to see litter on the grass verges and vandalism which could harm animals.


The Ugly:

Strangers on the internet have been mean to me.

I posted a comment on a Marks and Spencer’s Facebook post which was advertising their Paddington Bear merchandise. I wrote that the Paddington films have an amazing message which is at odds with their adverts in UK newspapers which incite hatred towards immigrants (see Stop Funding Hate). 

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I naively wasn’t expecting anyone to read my words let alone comment. None of the negative comments were particularly bad (knowing how some people are trolled on social media) but I’m quite sensitive and I was surprised by some people’s reactions. I’m not used to people behaving like that towards me and I was hurt and angry. Normally, a Facebook notification on my phone is a positive thing as someone has ‘liked’ a photo I’ve shared but on Wednesday I dreaded seeing the red notification symbol and felt sick inside. 

Some of their words are still going round my head. Am I a ‘snowflake’? Do I ‘have a life’? Yet, I don’t regret what I wrote and I’m going to post a letter to Marks and Spencer this weekend outlining my concerns about their advertising.

Ultimately though it’s not about me and what a handful of people think about me. It’s about taking a stand on behalf of people who are currently experiencing injustice. 

 

Ethical living · Social justice

With love from Radhamma

 


To: dido.pilgrim@gmail.com

From: radhamma@imakeyourclothes.in

Hi Dido

Thank you so much for the invitation to Little Miss’s birthday party. I can’t believe that she is going to be one already! It’s wonderful that she is going to be wearing the dress I made. I’m absolutely thrilled that you loved it. You’re right – blue denim and pink is such a winning combination.

IMG_1675

This dress is 100% cotton and made in India. It’s very likely that it was made at the Best Corporation, one of Mothercare’s leading suppliers. The Best Corporation is situated in Tirupur, Tamil Nadu – a region in South India which is well-known for garment production. 

I’m so sorry I can’t make it but I will be working. But don’t panic! It’s not forced overtime anymore. Things have really changed since the Flawed Fabrics report came out. Life is much better.

The Flawed Fabrics report was published in October 2014 (when Small Boy was nine months old) and highlights human rights violations faced by the young women and girls working in the factories and mills in Tamil Nadu. 

In Flawed Fabrics, Best Corporation workers are recorded as saying that: 

  • They were forced to work overtime.
  • They worked more than 60 hours per week.
  • There were not enough toilet breaks. 

However, Best was the only factory investigated where workers were occasionally allowed to leave the grounds. 

I’m just doing some overtime to earn a bit more money to send back to the village for my parents.

The young women and girls who are recruited to work in the garment sector in Tamil Nadu are usually from impoverished rural villages whose families desperately need the extra income and one less mouth to feed. 

You’re so lucky having your family close by. I miss mine so much but at least I can call them on my mobile for a chat.

Flawed Fabrics states that in many of the factories and mills, the young women and girls (the workers are mainly female and the supervisors male) were not permitted to use mobile phones and could only telephone agreed phone numbers. Best employees were the only workers who were allowed to have mobiles. 

Children grow so quickly, don’t they? It won’t be long until that dress is too small for her! I wonder what you’ll buy next?

I wish Little Miss a very happy birthday.

With love from Radhamma

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PS: It’s going to be my birthday soon too. I will be 18.

A more recent report (2016), Forced Labour in the Textile and Garment Sector in Tamil Nadu, South India: Strategies for Redress by Dr Annie Delaney and Dr Tim Connor,  states that in 2012 the Tirupur People’s Forum estimated that the majority of the female workforce were younger than 18 years old with many less than 14.


Hi Radhamma

Thank you so much for your email. I’m glad that life has improved recently. To be honest, it’s been hard to find out what your working and living conditions are actually like. I’d like to see your factory and hostel for myself.

According to the Forced Labour report, human rights violations still exist in the Tamil Nadu garment industry.

I’d like to visit you, to meet you face-to-face and to say thank you for all the clothes you have made for Small Boy and Little Miss over the last three and a half years: the everyday vests, the tiny sleepsuits that were worn for what felt like five minutes and the special occasion clothes, such as the denim giraffe dress that I knew I just had to buy as soon as I saw it.

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I hope that conditions have genuinely improved since Flawed Fabrics was published. I’m pleased to read that Mothercare now release an anti-slavery statement and earlier this year sent out a Responsible Sourcing Handbook to all suppliers.

I’m reassured by their new factory assessments programme:

‘The assessments include initial factory reviews on proposed factories and follow up visits with active factories.

‘The top issues identified were excessive working hours, too many consecutive working days, issues over minimum wages or overtime payments and health and safety issues. In these instances an appropriate corrective action plan was put in place and active factories received a follow up visit and on going support.’

It’s good to read that Mothercare’s suppliers in ‘vertically owned supplier mills’ have agreed to only hire workers who are 18 or older.

It does look as if conditions are changing for you and I hope they continue to do so.

Love, Dido x